Khalid Abdul Muhammad, 53, the controversial and uncompromising Nation of Islam official who served as Minister Louis Farrakhan’s assistant until his dismissal over virulent oral attacks on Jews and whites in 1993, died Saturday, Feb. 17.
A spokesman for the family said Rev. Muhammad died of natural causes in Wellstar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Ga. He had been taken to the hospital on Tuesday after suffering a brain aneurysm and was removed from life support Thursday.
Rev. Muhammad, a former national spokesman for the Nation of Islam, was more recently the national chairman of the New Black Panther Party. In that role, he led more than a dozen followers to the streets of Jasper, Texas, in 1998, in a display of solidarity with black residents after James Byrd Jr. was dragged to his death by whites.
“Black men and black women must protect themselves,” he told reporters at the time. “We must put God first, but we need our guns. And we pray that God will give us the strength to shoot straight.”
That same year, he led the Million Youth March in New York City, which drew an estimated 6,000 people and ended in a clash between police and participants.
“He will be remembered as a modern-day Malcolm X,” said Malik Zulu Shabazz, a spokesman for the New Black Panther Party and an attorney for Rev. Muhammad.
In Chicago, Nation of Islam officials praised him for helping to strengthen the organization.
“May Allah be pleased with him,” said James Muhammad, editor of The Final Call, the Nation of Islam newspaper. “And we call on those who followed him and benefited from him to double the pace in the struggle for complete liberation of black people in America and throughout the world.”
Rev. Muhammad was born Harold Moore Jr. and began preaching as a child. The quarterback for an all-black high school in Houston, he attended Dillard University in New Orleans. While at the school in the late 1960s, he heard Farrakhan speak and became interested in the black liberation movement.
By the early 1980s, he had become one of Farrakhan’s top aides in the Nation of Islam. He served at Nation of Islam mosques in New York and Atlanta until becoming Farrakhan’s personal assistant in 1991.
The relationship was short-lived. During a 1993 speech at Kean College in New Jersey, Rev. Muhammad referred to Jews as “bloodsuckers,” called Pope John Paul II a “cracker” and urged violent uprising against whites in South Africa.
Congress quickly denounced the speech, and Farrakhan suspended him from the Nation of Islam hierarchy. In 1994, a former Nation of Islam minister attacked Rev. Muhammad after a speech in Riverside, Calif. Rev. Muhammad was shot in the leg in the attack, which also injured three other people.
“The stormiest time for Mr. Muhammad was when he had to split from his teacher,” Shabazz said. “But he was able to survive and he was still Khalid Abdul Muhammad to the very end. He was uncompromising.”
Shabazz said that Rev. Muhammad and Farrakhan had since resolved their differences and that Farrakhan had called several times in the last week.
In recent years, Shabazz said, Rev. Muhammad had taken to a combination of social service and activism, building the New Black Panther Party and leading programs for drug addicts, the poor and the uneducated. He lived in New York and Atlanta and spoke at lectures and rallies nationwide.
Survivors include a wife, three sons and three sisters. Shabazz declined to identify them, citing unspecified security reasons.
A funeral service will be held Saturday in Harlem, New York. Burial will be in Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, N.Y., near the grave of Malcolm X, Shabazz said.